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Morehead State, Hyland Seek League Title
By any account, David Hyland has had a successful career at Morehead State, and he has one season to play.
A two-time All-American at defensive back, he led his division in interceptions a year ago, and more honors might come his way this fall.
But until he and the Eagles capture a championship, Hyland won’t be satisfied.
”We’ve been just short of a championship two of my three years,“ he said. ”We hope to pull together and win this time.“
San Diego has been the obstacle. In Hyland’s freshman year of 2005, the Toreros defeated Morehead 47-40 in the last minute of the Pioneer League title game.
San Diego downed the Eagles 27-14 last season with a share of the title at stake. By winning, Morehead would have tied Dayton for first place. The Eagles had the tiebreaker after an earlier victory over the Flyers.
”You work so hard, then come up short of everything you’ve been playing for,“ Hyland said. ”It breaks your heart. But it’s my senior year, and I don’t want to go out that way.“
By playing non-scholarship football, the Eagles don’t qualify for the playoffs in the Football Championship Subdivision. Conference championships and perhaps a post-season game are the goals.
The Pioneer League competed in two divisions for a few years and had a title game. Now the league crowns a champion from the regular season and joins with the Northeast Conference for the Gridiron Classic.
”Not having (athletic) scholarships shows the character of practicing day in and day out and playing for the love of the game,“ Hyland said.
”I definitely found my niche. When I was in high school, I wanted the big traditional school like Georgia, LSU or Kentucky. But great players there may not get to see the field because of the talent level.“
Hyland has seen plenty of playing time since he came to Morehead State. He hadn’t heard of the school until he got a call from John Gilliam, the associate head coach.
”It was a chance to skip a day of school to take a visit,“ Hyland said. ”I was impressed by how honest and genuine the coaches talked. I felt this is where God wanted me.“
Morehead Coach Matt Ballard was happy with Hyland’s decision.
”David has taken charge of the secondary and is our most talented guy,“ Ballard said. ”If we had him on offense, he would be our top receiver.“
”I was recruited to play receiver,“ Hyland recalled. ”About a week before our first game, the coaches asked if I’d like to try defensive back. We were slim at corner, and I said I’d give it a try.“
Hyland also plays receiver on offense, especially in third-down situations.
”The coaches kind of battle back and forth,“ Hyland said.
He just plays his game and seeks a title.
”I’d like to be a captain this year,“ he said. ”I’m a pre-season All-American, and I’d like to fulfill that. I led the nation in interceptions, and I’d like to repeat. But I really want to do everything I can to win a championship.“
Five players to watch
Linebacker Wes McDermott: ”He was a dumpy, soft 270 when he got here,“ Ballard said. ”He has grown and developed as much as anyone I can remember.“
Quarterback Evan Sawyer: ”Evan had an outstanding spring,“ Ballard said. ”He has a strong arm and a nice touch, and he’s excellent in the passing game. He can run and is a playmaker.“
Wide receiver Nick Feldman: ”He’s our leader,“ Ballard said of the three-year starter and two-year All-America punt returner.
Fullback Drew Morgan: ”He’s capable of turning an average gain into a big play,“ Ballard said. ”He can accelerate and gives us a different dimension.“
Center Nick Schoenfeld: ”He’s a three-year starter, and his leadership is so strong,“ Ballard said.
Scouting the Eagles
Coach: Matt Ballard (81-69 in 14 seasons at Morehead; 116-94-1 overall)
Last season: 7-4 overall (5-2 and third in Pioneer League)
Returning starters: 12(six offense, six defense)
Outlook: The Eagles led Division I-AA in rushing defense last fall (53.9 yards a game) but lost five starters. Replacing that leadership will challenge Ballard and his staff, but a ”fabulous spring“ has the coach optimistic. All-American David Hyland has taken charge in the secondary. Linebacker Wes McDermott is a monster, according to his coach. ”He’s dependable on a blitz or pass cover,“ Ballard said. The defensive line is deep. Quarterback Evan Sawyer emerged as Brian Yost’s successor with an outstanding spring. ”He’s more of a playmaker than Yost,“ Ballard said. Drew Morgan has been moved from halfback to fullback because of his quickness and speed. ”He’s able to make an average play into a big play,“ Ballard said. Nick Feldman is a two-year All-American at wide receiver. Center Nick Schoenfeld, a three-year starter, will lead the offensive line.
Question marks: Does Morehead have enough depth at halfback, and will the runners remain healthy? Who will join Feldman as the other go-to guy at wide receiver? Who will be the outside linebacker? No one separated himself in the spring, Ballard said.
Game of the year: ”In our conference, every week is the ‘game of the year,’ “ Ballard said. ”If you don’t play games to the end, somebody will snake bite you.“
Morehead, Hyland seek league title
By Rick Bailey, The Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)